Upload Your Entry
Anna Cominos

52 weeks in Tsirigo – Kissing the Crucifix

Will the Gods of Kytherian Weather make up their minds up or what?????
Just when the body and soul becomes accustomed to the cold of winter, olive wood is collected to stoke the wood fires, the sun peaks out behind the veil of clouds. And while it is chilly in the shade the daylight is gloriously warm. Like the rest of the planet, Kythera suffers from ‘climatic schizophrenia’ - the flowers are blooming out of season. There is a sun-soaked melancholy afloat as the Yiortes (holidays) draw to an end. In Greece the final day of holidays is marked by the religious ritual of Theofania (the Epiphany) with young men plunging into the icy Mediterranean waters to retrieve the blessed crucifix.

Theofania in Kythera became like a mobile Circus with the ritual performed initially at Kapsali then Diakofti and finally Agia Pelagia accommodating the mesa and exo (the Northerners and Southerners) and even the mesei (the middletons, not Masai)

Always late for the party, I attended the afternoon Theofania ritual in Agia Pelagia, held at the Molo (wharf). Over 300 locals dolled up in their Sunday best, gathered to share in the celebrations, The event was presided over by local Archbishop Serafeim, flanked by the Mayor and all the political hobnobs. Pater Seraphim blessed the waters and the symbolic crucifix (honouring the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist). The Archbishop then made several (comical) attempts to throw the wooden cross in the sea but was faltered by the microphone stand. Once the technical issues were resolved three men stripped to their bathers and swam out to the cross.

While the fashionably attired crowds squirmed with each free-style stroke the brave men took, the crucifix was finally retrieved by young local lad Panayiotis Tambakis who in his relief and as tradition has it, held-up the cross and kissed it. (It is commonly thought that retrieving the crucifix will bring with it a Blessed Year). In a blind act of faith Panayiotis passed the cross back to other two swimmers who too kissed the cross. But in a fit of mean-spiritedness, the third swimmer refused to give the cross back and he handed the Crucifix to the Archbishop. (where is the replay button when you need it). Only here in Kythera folks!

On a more sincere note the heart saddens each time a Kytherian elder dies. It is like an encyclopaedic book closes tight, all knowledge disappears and we have no window to the past. Such was the bitterness felt when Mitata personality Theia Eleni Prineas (Revithi)passed away/over at the beginning of 2008.Born in 1917 the youngest of eight children to Adoni and Maria Prineas. Theia Eleni was a forthright opinionated firecracker had something to add to whatever what was been discussed. Her internal strength and physical capabilities seemed connected to her birthdate of March 8 (International Women’s Day) Sadly for this proud Piscean her final years were spent in the local Old People’s Home, she prayed to escape her confinement.

Her funeral in Mitata was held at the school as the Church in the Plateia (town square) remains earthquake ravaged. What was most touching was the sisterhood of Theia Eleni’s elderly girlfriends who had turned out to honour their neighbour fresh flowers in hand.

PS The boat has arrived and like a straying spouse taken up its rightful place with an explanation or sorry for the inconvenience. HURRAH!!!

Leave A comment